The Seacoast

35º

It’s a mostly cloudy spring day in Portsmouth, and it’s 6:42PM.

Taste some local beers at a brewery.

Coffee

D Squared Java

Absolutely flawless artisan coffee and tea to impress even the biggest snob. And great desserts too! Grab your favorite drink and take a walk through the shops of historic downtown Exeter, or along the Squamscott River.

 

Book and Bar

This is the place to lounge around on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Selections on coffees, teas, and boozy drinks is surprisingly extensive. The food menu features small plates that are more special than your average coffee shop. Oh, and don't forget, there are books to flip through as well!

 

Breakfast

The Friendly Toast

A quirky and unusual spot with lots of vintage flair. Rated one of the top breakfasts by Esquire Magazine, Best of Boston, Taste of the Seacoast, and Good Morning America. Choices here are more varied than your average diner—they make their own bread and feature bizarrely delicious combinations like New Hampshire's Finest: scrambled eggs with local goat cheese, asparagus, scallions, and bacon. Also try the unique DGGC: a grilled cheese made with their own cayenne cheddar bread, cheddar and american cheese, olive-garlic spread, and a strawberry-habanero sauce.

 

Colby's Breakfast & Lunch

A traditional and friendly breakfast joint where everyone can get their favorites. It's a small place, so best for groups of 4 or fewer. Thick-cut cinnamon swirl french toast and plate-sized pancakes are their specialties, but the egg and meat dishes are wonderful as well (the huevos rancheros are a personal favorite).

 

Museums

Strawbery Banke

Half of downtown Portsmouth is a living museum featuring buildings from the past four centuries of Portsmouth history. Buy a ticket for a guided tour or grab a cup of coffee at the White Apron Cafe in the visitors center and look out at the antique architecture—houses date back to the late 1600’s and include many revolutionary landmarks.

 

Lunch

Cafe Nostimo

Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall, this is a great spot for an inexpensive Greek lunch. The kebab platters are a great value, but if you're looking for something ultra-rich, try the warm feta dip appetizer.

 

Lexie's Joint

Lexie's is a local favorite, and it isn't hard to see why! Just a short walk from downtown, Lexie's serves up creative burgers and crispy fries with a special flare. The daily specials are always a great choice, as are the super-thick milkshakes.

 

Groceries

McKinnon's Market & Super Butcher Shop

Just like it sounds, this "super butcher shop" specializes in meat. They have lots of it, from fresh expensive cuts to frozen bulk packages and even cold cuts and pre-prepared meals. The beer and wine selection here is also great, but the fresh vegetables tend to be a little on the pricey side.

 

Rollinsford and Exeter Farmer's Markets

The Seacoast's main winter farmer's market is held in a greenhouse in Rollinsford, near Dover, and runs alternate Saturdays from November to March. Various prepared foods and drinks are available, as well as fresh breads, veggies, and meat. The secondary market, held at Exeter High School, takes place on the other Saturdays from December to mid-April. Vendors are fairly consistent from week to week, and tend to be similar to the Rollinsford Farmers Market. More info including dates and vendors at seacoasteatlocal.org.

 

Portsmouth Farmer's Market

Most towns have their own summer farmer's market, and one of the larger ones is at the Portsmouth City Hall on Saturday mornings. Live music plays as you shop through the rows of prepared food, craft, fruit, veggie, meat, and cheese booths. Portsmouth Farmer’s Market is held from early May through early November.

 

Clothes & Gifts

Attrezzi

Everything kitchen-related you could ever need, from potholders and silverware to bizarre gadgets and packaged dips... they even have a gourmet chocolate stand and a daily wine tasting! Even those who don't drink will be amused by sommelier Matt's banter and his attempt to sell his “life-changing cheese" (ok, it actually is really good).

 

Gus & Ruby Letterpress

Cute gifts, thoughtful cards, and quirky housewares. Even if you're just browsing, you'll likely find something to make you smile. They also do custom letterpress invitations for those soon-to-be brides.

 

Goods

Coastal and NH-centric hoodies, housewares, and gifts. The surprising thing about this little shop is how unique and inexpensive the items are. Small pieces for tourists sit among housewares for locals, and new pieces come in all the time. Be sure to check out the view out the back window—it's picture perfect.

 

Fox Run Mall

If you're looking for chains like the Gap, Ulta, Macy's, or Best Buy, you won't find them in town. Head to Newington, which is essentially a giant shopping mall between Portsmouth and Dover, for your Big Box store needs. Non-chain highlights include Lo's Seafood, an asian specialty grocery store, and Spice of India, an above average food court joint in the main mall (hint: fresh naan!). There is also a Trader Joe's in the mall's outparcel for your cookie dough butter cravings.

 

Ganesh

Urban Outfitters-esque clothes for H&M prices. Various dresses, coats, and jewelry for unexpectedly low prices, and no sales tax! Check out the bargain basement for the occasional amazing deal.

 

Kittery Outlets

Everything from clothing to candles. Celebrate hitting the far end by popping into Yummie's for a little (or a lot) of candy. Other worthwhile non-outlet stops are Robert's Maine Grill for a fresh seafood lunch, and Kittery Trading Post for your outdoorsy needs.

 

Happy Hour

Sonny's Tavern

An unexpectedly cool place for a drink and some asian fusion bar food. The tap list here doesn't disappoint and neither does the ambience. Long-time New Hampshirites will remember this location as the old Barley Pub, but the refreshed style seems to be attracting newcomers as well.

 

Coat of Arms

Pint nights are Tuesday and Thursday from 5-9. Most beers are only $3.75, and the selection is wonderful. They also feature a selection of specialty cask beers and rotating guest taps, as well as a lovely scotch list. For other happy hour options on the Seacoast, check out portshap.com.

 

WHYM Craft Beer Cafe

Self-declared beer snob's bar serves an ever-changing tap list of local favorites and small-batch imports. It's intentionally hard to find—look for the Wren's Nest Village Inn and pull all the way into the back of the parking lot. WHYM will be on your left. The odd location means it's a good place to check out when all the in-town bars are full, or just a place to sit and appreciate the peace and quiet.

 

The Stone Church

The charming converted church makes a great place to spend an evening listing to local music. Check their website for bands and specials—some nights are sold out a month in advance while others are quiet and great for bringing a group of friends.

 

The Red Door

Portsmouth's hipster refuge and semi-speakeasy serves martinis to patrons in three-piece suits. Crowd varies by night—local music nights tend to embrace the lounge feel, while on DJ nights you might feel like you're at the Jersey Shore.

 

Dinner

Shio

The sushi here is some of the best in New Hampshire, at the very least. It's a bit of a drive and tucked away in the back of a shopping plaza, but the word has gotten out and they are consistently busy nearly every night. Call ahead for a reservation, order sushi (cooked entrees aren't as special), and expect to leave happy.

 

Flatbread Pizza Company

This local chain is a favorite for families. Kids love watching their pizzas get baked in the giant wood-burning oven, and grown-ups enjoy the fresh, organic ingredients (both on the pizzas and in the salads) and the laid-back atmosphere.

 

Street

A mix of ethnic street foods from around the world. The curry fries, cemita sandwiches, and bibimbap are unusual and wonderful. A great place for groups with a mix of dietary needs (even unadventurous eaters will find familiar dishes like hot dogs, burgers, and fried chicken).

 

Jumpin' Jays Fish Cafe

If you're looking for fresh fish from the waters off New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada in an upscale atmosphere, this is the place to go. The raw bar is the best in Portsmouth, but if cooked fish is more your style, the "fresh catch" entrees are a personal favorite.

 

Stages at One Washington

Do you believe dining should be an experience? Look no further. Stages runs a 6-seat kitchen table inside the Dover Mills that is ideal for special occasions. James Beard-nominated head chef Evan Hennessy will make sure the meal is memorable with his thoughtful, local, beautiful food. Many meals are planned with local vineyards or breweries in mind and can include a beverage pairing at an additional charge. Reservations are required.

 

Black Trumpet Bistro

Look no further for an award-winning meal (the head chef consistently gets nominated for various titles, including nearly winning two James Beard awards). The menu focuses on being locally inspired and artful. If you don't have a lot of cash to burn, the bar upstairs has a view of the harbor and a great drink list.

 

The Black Birch

Seasonal small plates menu and ever changing beer list make this place a crowd pleaser, or a great choice for a date night. Being right over the border into Maine means they can source craft beers that would be too expensive to import to New Hampshire. Everything from the ingredients to the decor is thoroughly thought out, and it shows.

 

Dessert

Beach Pea Baking Co

Just over the bridge in Kittery sits this unassuming bakery which makes some truly delicious breads, cakes, and pastries. Grab some chocolate chip cookies for tonight and a loaf of crusty bread for tomorrow.

 

Random Acts of Sweetness

While their ever-changing cupcake and truffle flavors are plenty to keep you coming back, they also make some of the prettiest custom cakes around for your special events. Flavors are rotated daily so check Facebook before stopping in, or just enjoy the surprise.

 

Breaking New Grounds

This is the central point of Portsmouth, so it's great for people watching or just sitting on the square with your favorite coffee or tea creation and a good book.

 

Entertainment

Players' Ring Theatre

Portsmouth has many theater stages, but Player's Ring is perhaps the most professional and varied. Situated in an intimate and historic theater in Prescott Park, the low wood beams and brick walls may make you feel like you're about to discover the next Shakespeare.

 

Art 'Round Town

Portsmouth's art walk is the first Friday of every month. Explore around a dozen galleries (depending on the season) within quick walking distance. A great way to explore Portsmouth while drinking free wine and being inspired by gorgeous work. Nahcotta and 3S Artspace, in particular, can't be missed.

 

The Music Hall

A historic theater featuring music, movies, plays, author talks, comedy shows, film festivals, and more. Going to see a show at the Music Hall is a truly unique experience, and there isn't a bad seat in the house.

 

Outdoors

Peirce Island and Four Tree Island

Bring the family and fire up a grill! Right off the coast of mainland Portsmouth is this 27-acre island featuring an outdoor pool, a dog park, playground, boat launch, and covered picnic areas... all with fantastic views of Portsmouth and Kittery.

 

Bike Ride Down 1A

One of the perks of being on the Seacoast, aside from the gorgeous views, is the relatively flat terrain. Use your own bike or rent one from a local shop, and take off to Newcastle Island, around Odiorne Point, or just down the road for a fresh lobster dinner.

 

Breweries

Earth Eagle Brewings

One of the Seacoast's best new trends is the nanobrewery, and Earth Eagle is the best of the best. Their tap list changes week to week, but usually features some beer drinker's beers and some odd, possibly fruity, possibly herby, creations that can please even the wine drinkers in the crowd. Grab a few tasters and a seat by the open garage door for a unique Seacoast experience.

 

Blue Lobster Brewing Company

Another nanobrewery, Blue Lobster is known for making updated, fresh versions of the beer varieties you know and love (pale ales, IPAs, and farmhouse ales are fairly common and popular here).

 

Throwback Brewery

Throwback is a well-rounded brewery, making both what you'd expect and some fun seasonal and specialty releases. They are relatively well-distributed throughout the Seacoast and the rest of New Hampshire, so you may find some of their beers in grocery stores and restaurants as well as at their tasting room in North Hampton.

 

Smuttynose Brewing Company

The Granite State's leading craft brewery is currently expanding to a facility at Towle Farm in Hampton. Until then, tours and tastings are still being done at their Portsmouth location. Either way, the Smutty tour is unmissable for a beer lover. Make a reservation for a tour and get unlimited samples of a variety of fresh Smutty beer. You even walk away with a coupon for more free beer at the Portsmouth Brewery, so you really can't lose.

 

Redhook Brewery

This brewery at Pease Tradeport is the east coast headquarters of the Washington State brand. Tours include a tasting, or grab a bite at the on-site Cataqua Public House, which stocks a wide range of Red Hook beers.